Parents Find Comfort In Baby Rockers

"That's what made it easy for me to go home to the rest of the kids at night"

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Having a baby is one of the happiest times in a parent’s life, but it can also be one of the most stressful.

Especially if a newborn is sick and has to stay in the NICU.

But at one local hospital there are volunteers to help during the difficult times.

Six weeks ago Jennifer and Brett Jepsen had their fourth child, Dax, at Sanford Hospital.

He was born two weeks early with some complications.

“His lungs weren’t functioning, his heart was enlarged, his liver was failing, he had an infection and then his umbilical cord would not stop bleeding,” explains Jennifer.

Dax has been staying at the Sioux Falls hospital ever since.

The Jepsens say it’s been a tough couple of weeks, but now they’re in the home stretch.

“He’s been progressing every day,” says Brett.

Brett and Jennifer spend as much time as they can in the NICU, but with three other children at home, they can’t always be with Dax.

That’s where Clair Halverson comes into play.

He’s volunteered as a baby rocker at Sanford for the past six years.

“I want to help the parents as much as possible,” says Halverson.

Four nights a week, Halverson spends his time cuddling babies when parents aren’t able to be there and nurses are busy with other tiny patients.

“If they’re working with one or feeding one and the other one is fussing then that puts stress on the nurse, and also then their other baby can feel that stress,” says the former data processor.

Studies have shown cuddling small and premature babies can help them in multiple ways including growing up with fewer social problems.

Halverson says he’s heard about these benefits, but for him, it’s about the short term benefits – seeing a baby calm down in his arms.

“I don’t see it as a responsibility as much as a privilege,” says Halverson.

“That’s what made it easy for me to go home to the rest of the kids at night, is to have the baby rockers here almost all hours of the day,” says Jennifer.

Halverson says the best part is handing the child back over to parents like the Jepsens.

“It feels complete having him with me, he’s right where he’s supposed to be,” says Jennifer.

Anyone can be a baby rocker at Sanford Hospital as long as they pass a background check and go through orientation.

But you’ll have to wait in line!

The hospital already has 77 volunteers, they’ve even started a waiting list.

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